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Experiment 24

Experiment 24: The Potentiometer


Purpose

(1) To study the principle of the potentiometer.


(2) To measure EMFs of batteries.

Apparatus

(a) a slide wire, a DC power supply; an ammeter, a voltmeter


(b) a standard cell, a holder for batteries and DPDT switch
(c) a galvanometer with protector, connectors; battery samples

Theory
If we connect a voltmeter across the terminals of a battery as in Fig. 1, the voltmeter
reading V will not be equal to the value of EMF, but formula (1) would apply.

In formula (1), I = the current through the battery (also through the voltmeter),
R = the internal resistance of the battery.
The idea of the potentiometer is to arrange that there is no current
through the battery, despite the fact that it is connected into a circuit.

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Experiment 24

In Fig. 2 a current I is created around the Main Loop (AXBCD) and this establishes a
potential difference VAB = VA VB across the slide wire of known length LAB .
Next, a Cell Branch is connected between points A and X on the slide wire. If the
point X is chosen so that there is no current in the Cell Branch (as attested by the
galvanometer), then the potential difference VAX = VA VX must be exactly equal
to x , the unknown EMF of the battery.
If the slide wire is uniform then VAX will be
proportional to LAX , the length of the portion of
the slide wire between A and X. To calibrate
the slide wire, we replace the unknown X by a
known S of a Standard Cell, which will need
a contact (for zero current) at some point S,
corresponding to length LAS . Then formula (2)
applies.

PRACTICAL FORMULA
(2)

X
S

Procedure Part I. Checking the Uniformity of the Slide Wire


a) Set up the Main Loop, as in Fig. 3.

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LAX
LAS

Experiment 24

b) Adjust the current I to be roughly 0.6 amps. Measure VAB by voltmeter and check
that it is roughly 2 volts (if in doubt, check with your instructor).
c) Connect the voltmeter between A and X (the tap key on the slide wire). Measure
VAX for the values of LAX equal to 10, 20, 30, . . . and up to 100 cm, recording in a
table. After finishing, turn OFF the power.

Procedure Part II. Measuring Unknown EMFS


d) Assemble the Cell Branch, carefully following the details of Fig. 4.

Your will be given 3 or more sample batteries of unknown EMFs. They are labeled
Sample A, B, etc. Before mounting any of them, record what kind of batteries (fresh
common, dead common, Ni-Cd rechargeable, etc.) they are. Record S ( the
EMF of the Standard Cell).

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Experiment 24

e) Mount both the sample battery A and the Standard Cell into your Cell Branch,
carefully observing the polarities in DPDT mountings. (If you are not sure, call your
instructor.) Disconnect the voltmeter from the Main Loop. Verify that the power
supply is OFF. Connect the Cell Branch to the Main Loop. Make sure you know how
and when to operate both the DPDT switch and the Galvanometer protector switch.
Otherwise, ask your instructor to help you.
DO NOT PROCEED FURTHER WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF YOUR INSTRUCTOR.
f) Engage the Standard Cell by DPDT switch and turn the power ON. Adjust the
current to 0.6 amps. With the tap key near the middle of the slide wire, tap it: the
galvanometer needle should jump but slightly. (If it jumps strongly or goes off
scale, call your instructor!)

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Experiment 24

g) Move the tap key somewhat (in the same direction in which the needle jumped) the needle should jump less, or else reverse. By a successive approximation procedure
you will find a position where there is no deflection upon tapping.
When this is achieved, press and hold the galvanometer protector contact switch.
While it is pressed, tap the slide wire key again.
The needle is expected to jump again, even if very slightly. Adjust the position of the
tap key so that there is no deflection of the galvanometer (even with the protector
switch held pressed).
Return DPDT to neutral position.
Read now (at your leisure) the
position of the tap key and record
it in the table as shown, in column
#1 under Standard Cell.

SAMPLE #
B

Std Cell
Unknown
Std Cell Check

j) Engage your Sample #1 via DPDT but do not change the current in the Main Loop.
With the tap key somewhat to the right from the middle of the slide wire, tap it: the
needle should jump but slightly (if it jumps strongly or goes off scale, call your
instructor!) Repeat the procedures (g) and (h) and record (column #1, unknown).
k) Revert DPDT to Standard Cell and make a check of its former reading. It must be
correct within 1 or 2 millimeters. If so, record it accordingly; if not your work is
faulty and you must go back to (f) and repeat everything (call your instructor for help).
l) Using your other samples, repeat the same steps as with Sample #1.
Note: While the Standard Cell readings must always be within 1 or 2 mm., some other
cells readings may not be reproducible with such accuracy. If you observe such
cases, discuss them with your instructor.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE LAB, YOU ARE REQUIRED TO DISCONNECT ALL
ELECTRICAL PLUGS AND ALL CONNECTORS.

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Experiment 24

Lab Report
Part I

1) Answer Question #1: Before you draw the graph of VAX vs. LAX , state exact reasons
whether you expect it to be a straight line or not, and why.
2) Draw you own (experimental) graph of VAX vs. LAX .
Answer Question #2: Explain any discrepancies to your answer to (1).

Part II
3) For all your samples, display the
measured values of LAS and LAX ,
and the calculated values of X , as
shown.

SAMPLE
#

LAS (AVE)
(cm)

LAX
(cm)

X
(volts)

A
B
C

4) Answer additional questions:


Question #3: If you buy a 1.5 volt battery and do not use it for a long time, it will
become dead. A typical dead battery may still have = 1.45 volts, but it will
possess large internal resistance, say R = 200 ohms (instead of less than 1 ohm for a
new battery).
What % error will be made if one attempts to measure directly by a voltmeter, (as in
Fig. 1) , assuming that the voltmeter itself has a resistance of 1,500 ohms? Show your
reasoning and your calculations.
Question #4: In Part II (measurements of EMF) you were asked to take the standard
cell reading twice, but the unknown battery reading only once. Obviously this was
not simply a repeated reading (to check for blunders) because S is known
exactly (1.02 volts) while X is unknown. What then is the reason?

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